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Ghost Bride

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He hadn't meant to.

He ....

No, he had meant to, but he'd expected Izuna to dodge.

But then Izuna had never disrespected him by doing less than his best - so of course Tobirama would have never done less.

It was inevitable that one of them would have fallen, eventually.


Tobirama knelt in the family shrine, staring at the names of their family that had gone before.

If Father had still been Clan head, there would have been no repercussions, and in fact, there would have been gruff praise and a reward of a better helping of meat for a week, no matter how bitter it would have tasted.

But Father's name was carved and painted gold on dark wood now, next to that of Mother's, and below were the smaller tablets of Kawarama's and Itama's.

All around him, on either side, were the names of those who had gone before, who had died on the Clan head's command, under their watch and leadership.

Anija had hoped that soon, their sacrifices would have been for peace.

But with one downward slash of his blade, Tobirama had rendered it all forfeit.

There was still space in the shrine, the spaces huge and yawning, and Tobirama could almost see yet smaller tablets of yet younger siblings and cousins ranging the walls, empty-shelves that would not be empty for long.

He folded his hands down, onto the cold stone floor and bowed, pressing his forehead down.

"Nii-san failed you, Itama. Kawarama." And because of his failure, tonight would be the last time he could burn any offerings to them.

In the privacy of the shrine, in the last night of his life here, Tobirama could allow himself to shake apart.

 


 

He set off without fanfare, without any escort.

It was two days at a firm steady jog, though possibly five if he walked and took rests.

But he was in disgrace, and there was no point putting off the inevitable.

He wore no armour, for he was not arriving as a warrior, and brought no weapons but the sword he'd used to strike Izuna down.

He took less than half a day, using chakra like a free flowing torrent, to wash up against the gates of the Uchiha compound, and walked straight through, towards where he could sense Uchiha Madara.

Uchiha Izuna's chakra signature was of course nowhere to be found.

"What are you doing here, Senju?" Madara snarled about to - to kill him, probably, possibly run him through - and there were only other Uchiha around him.

Tobirama went down to his knees, and Madara stopped.

"My actions have cost you a brother," Tobirama said, voice clear and even. He had to say it, had to show it. "And cost my Anija the possibility of peace."

Madara's gaze was bright red, burning, almost bleeding.

Tobirama unhooked his sword from his belt - there was no way that Madara would take it if he offered it, so he laid it down in front of his knees, before reaching up and taking off his happuri.

He used the last dregs of his chakra, coating it with the sharp snap of lightning, and scored the Senju symbol through, before placing it, with both hands, on top of his sword.

"Reparation," he said, clearly. "For Izuna. My life is yours."

Madara's chakra surged -a roar of fire that had him cringing inwards, but Tobirama steeled his spine.

No matter the choice of death, his life was now Madara's to end, and Tobirama would meet it the only way he could.

"What use have I for your life," Madara snarled, and then he was stepping forward, hand reaching down, grabbing Tobirama by the chin, yanking his head up. "Tell me, would it bring Izuna back?"

Tobirama swallowed. "Reparation for Izuna," Tobirama said. "So that it would not penalize the prospect of peace."

Madara's bright red eyes stared down at Tobirama, and for the first time in his life since learning of the sharingan, Tobirama did not flinch.

"Peace," Madara said, almost bitter. "Wouldn't buy my brother back."

No. No it wouldn't. Just like peace would not bring Itama or Kawarama back. "My life," Tobirama repeated, instead, "is yours."

If he died from madness driven by the sharingan, Tobirama told himself, it would be a long one. But then, what could he expect from a brother driven to revenge and anger, over the loss of a beloved brother? He would have done the same, if he had ever found the men who had killed Itama.

Madara stared at him, and then let go. "Because of you, Izuna died before he was fully a man," he snarled, "Your life is his. You own nothing. Not even your name."

Tobirama blinked.

"Bring him," Madara said, "to the shrine."

 


 

That they had cremated Izuna so quickly was to be expected. Tobirama hadn't expected otherwise - Uchiha lived and died by the flame after all, it seemed fitting.

That Madara pushed him to his knees in front of Izuna's tablet was also unsurprising; Madara wanting Izuna to witness his death was a little more poetic than he'd expected from someone of Madara's character, but the Uchiha love for family was beyond passion.

The bowing to Izuna's tablet was therefore unsurprising; the rice wine a little more so.

Madara touched the tablet, his fingers trailing down the carved deep strokes, and Tobirama wondered distantly who had carved the characters; they were jagged, rushed.

Madara might have done them personally.

And then Madara turned to one of his clanmates, a slender serious man. "Hikaku. The offerings."

Hikaku handed over the sword and happuri, and Madara placed them carefully, deliberately, on the little altar space in front of Izuna's tablet.

"These had better meet your liking, brat," Madara said, so softly that if Tobirama wasn't literally kneeling at Madara's feet, he wouldn't have heard it. And then he blew a small, concentrated stream of chakra down, engulfing the sword and happuri in flame chakra so intense that they were reduced to ash in seconds.

"Get up," Madara said as Tobirama blinked away the after-images. "Clean the ashes. Izuna hates flowers and likes ridiculous sweet pastries."

Tobirama got half to his feet, paused, confused.

Had he been talking to him?

Madara turned, and the smile he had on his face was odd.

"Didn't you hear me? Daily offerings of all the sweets Izuna loves. Just the first of your duties now."

"But," Tobirama said, completely confused. "You said my life was -"

"His. yes. Your life is now his." Madara's smile widened slightly. "Yome-san."

In-law? Tobirama hadn't married...

The bows. the wine - and the offerings.

Tobirama's eyes widened, even as he straightened up.

Married and widowed in the space of minutes. "I don't understand," Tobirama said. "Why didn't you just -?"

"I would hardly marry you," Madara said, rudely. "What would I do with you? On the other hand, you can at least keep Izuna stocked with the sweets he likes and the proper offerings."

Tobirama blinked. The Uchiha hadn't even... expected him to be killed? He'd thought that Tobirama had come to offer himself in marriage?!

Before he could demand more information or clarification or whether this was some fucked up genjutsu, Madara was already turning away, and no one was looking at him.

 


 

There were other Uchiha widows, of course.

And for the most part, those were the only ones he really interacted with.

Not to say that the other widows had had no other interaction within the Clan - the Uchiha were more insular than the Senju, and those who married into the Clan, did not leave even when their Uchiha spouse died, unlike with the Senju.

But many of them had children, and in-laws who survived, and they could and would, talk to them too, going out from the shrine's area to perform other duties within the Clan.

Tobirama's only in-law, however, was Madara, and his only duties was to tend to Izuna's grave site and tablet.

Once he got over the shock of being, well, married, Tobirama found widowhood rather peaceful.

 


 

At first, Tobirama would spend the long solitary hours when he was done with sweeping the grave site meditating in the single small room he was given.

Then he would do his kata - it wasn't like the Uchiha - or the Senju, for that matter - would care, but Tobirama felt like it would be disrespectful to fall completely to seed just because his husband was a dead man.

He had not brought his books, nor any other weaponry, so he could only do so much with just his body.

Then one week later, he decided to use the broom.

"What are you doing," Madara said flatly, from the shade of the only tree in the courtyard.

"...Kata," Tobirama said, after a moment's checking Madara's chakra. The man was still a simmering heat of… grief, anger, and other negative emotions, but he wasn't about to immolate Tobirama, so that was probably a win.

"You look like you're trying to sweep your shadow," Madara said.

Tobirama bit his lip a moment, looked towards him, but Madara had left.

It wasn't approval, but it wasn't disapproval, so Tobirama continued.

 


 

Without his books, and without his usual accruement of supplies for his jutsu work, Tobirama couldn't turn to his usual alternative activities in his down time.

Time stretched out, lazy and long, in front of him, contemplative with the prospect of years of no fighting whatsover.

(There had been little evidence of battle, in the one month Tobirama was here so far, which told him that his action was both sanctioned and approved from both Clans, and perhaps… the peace that Anija had wanted was in the offing.)

So, Tobirama considered the sole tree starting to put out leaves. Its shade barely reached Izuna's gravesite.

 


 

Gardening was a lot harder than one expected, especially without the mokuton.

But with something to do besides sweep and wash the grave stones, at least his thoughts had a direction.

It was a month before one of his cuttings put forth a new shoot, carefully tended with delicate suiton and pigeon droppings.

 


 

"Your brother hasn't asked about you at all," Madara said, shadow casting long and spiky over Tobirama, feet inches from Tobirama's fingers in the dirt.

"Ah," Tobirama said, glancing up at him.

"Is that all you have to say?"

"My presence here is expected and sanctioned," Tobirama said. "I have no doubts if Anija wanted to know more, he would ask."

Tobirama couldn't see Madara's expression very well, since his back was to the sun, but the little heat-shimmer from his chakra set his hair quivering, and Tobirama turned his attention back to his little cuttings.

They were doing well.

He didn't look up when Madara stomped away.

 


 

"He hasn't even tried to write to you."

Tobirama nodded placidly, and put tea down in front of Madara. "Pardon the plain settings," he murmured. "I didn't bring any when I came."

"You didn't bring a goddamn dowry," Madara said, acidly, and picked up the tea, drank it down in one harsh swallow, and slapped the slightly coarse cup back down.

"I apologise," Tobirama said.

"Shut up," Madara said, and looked out over to Izuna's gravesite. "What are you doing there?"

"Planting sakura," Tobirama said.

"Those are going to drop petals and leaves right onto Izuna's grave," Madara said.

"Then I shall have something to do in spring and autumn," Tobirama said.

Madara's brow wrinkled, and he stood up and left without saying anything further.

 


 

"Does Izuna like sakura?" Tobirama asked.

Madara paused as he exited the shrine; his time in amongst the tablets of the dead had left his chakra unusually unsettled. When he came, usually to rant at his ancestors and relatives, he'd at least leave feeling more… if not content, at least somewhat calmer.

"Why are you asking?" Madara said.

"If he doesn't like having it shadow his grave annually, I can move the sapling," Tobirama said.

"He never cared either way about sakura," Madara said after a moment, while Tobirama noted his chakra's restlessness twitch and churn a little less at the odd question.

"I suppose it would amuse him to have me sweep the petals then," Tobirama said.

Madara cast him an odd look. "You were going to ask me something else."

"Was I?"

"Aren't you even curious about the treaty?"

Tobirama had noted more pigeons flying back and forth - some of them even stopped by under his rooftop, and sometimes left him gifts of pigeon poop. He'd reward them with bits of the barley and corn he received for his meals, and that meant he had good quality fertilizer for Izuna's sakura tree.

"Is it not going well then?" Tobirama said after the long expectant look Madara gave him.

"Damn right it isn't," Madara snapped. "Hashirama is being idealistic and the Elders-!"

Tobirama nodded. "Anija is like that," he said.

"And that's all you have to say?"

Tobirama shrugged.

"Really?"

"I should plant some higanbana," Tobirama said. "But I'm not sure how easy that would be. It seems like they might be finicky."

Madara stared at him.

"Perhaps if your archives had anything on them, I might consult them? With your permission of course, Madara-sama."

Madara glared at him - somehow the tail of his long hair twitched, almost like a cat's tail. "You want to look in our archives for plant books."

"Plants don't talk to me," Tobirama said. "So I shall have to consult other experts' advice instead."

Madara frowned deeper at him, and turned away.

But at least his chakra was less furious and more annoyed.

 


 

"There is nothing that the Uchiha can do, to show our part in the goddamn treaty -" Madara snarled.

Tobirama almost expected him to have been stomping in with perhaps Hikaku at his side, but Madara was alone.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"Izuna has a stupidly sweet tooth," Tobirama said, carefully stacking a little pyramid of dango in front of Izuna's altar.

"You shouldn't badmouth your husband," Madara said.

"He hasn't told me off yet," Tobirama said.

Madara huffed loudly. "You're giving him too many dango."

"Did you want some?" Tobirama said, turning with his bowl still more than half full of dango.

Madara stared at him.

"Why are you so calm about this!?" He demanded.

Tobirama looked back at him. "About what?"

"This! Being useless! You're not allowed to be shinobi - you're a widow! I thought you'd have committed suicide by now, and instead you're… you're planting sakura and planning for its petals next year!"

"It shouldn't flower next year," Tobirama said, "It's too young for that."

"You're planning to be here, a widow for the long term!"

"Yes?" Tobirama said, curling his fingers over the bowl. "Should I … not?"

"You're a shinobi!"

"I gave that up as soon as I came here," Tobirama said. "And apparently that was part of my dowry."

"You didn't come with a goddamn dowry!"

"I would have made plans for a bigger one if I had known I was to be married," Tobirama agreed. "Fortunately, it seems like Izuna doesn't mind."

Madara made a noise like a steaming kettle.

Tobirama tapped his fingers against the bowl for a moment, waiting politely for Madara to calm down. Or perhaps say something that wasn't, well, about his widowhood.

After a thirty-count, he gave Madara a slight bow.

"I shall leave you to talk to your family then, Madara-sama," Tobirama said.

"Wait," Madara said.

"I shouldn't interrupt," Tobirama said. "After all, it seems like you have a lot to talk about."

Madara hissed at him, all steam-kettle again, and Tobirama left the shrine.

"Oy!"

Tobirama stopped at the entrance. "Yes?"

"Is that all?"

Tobirama looked down at the stone steps.

"Anija relies over much on the rapidity of his mokuton," he said, while Madara squeaked at the sudden change of topic. Tobirama scuffed his sandal against the stone. "The buildings here seem like they would withstand the strains of time, lightning and fire."

When he stepped forward to leave, the silence was contemplative.

 


 

His days were settled. Mornings were always for him to come and clear away the previous day's offerings, and refreshing them with new pastries and other slightly less ant-attractive offerings. Izuna was truly a beloved youngest brother, to be so indulged, for every day's food for Tobirama always included sweetmeats and pastries that he knew were for Izuna.

After tending to the offerings, he'd clear and sweep Izuna's grave site - if the other grave markers looked a little dusty, he'd sweep and wash those too. It wasn't as if his chakra was needed for anything mission critical, after all, and there was small contemplative pleasure in being able to keep each stone clean and bright as the water dried.

As morning shaded into afternoon, those were hours for meditation and tending to the seedlings in the shade. The days were growing longer, so it wasn't possible for him to stay too long in the sun. Evenings were for kata and gardening.

After Madara's outburst in the shrine, however, the man started coming over in the late afternoons, bringing with him an eclectic collection of books, some touching on gardening, some on rocks, and for some reason, astronomy.

He also brought the scrolls and missives of Clan Leadership, and glared at Tobirama.

Tobirama merely brought him tea, and started keeping aside some of the sweet pastries he had been given for Izuna so that Madara could drop crumbs into his angry missives about the upcoming Village, and meat for his falcons.

 


 

"Who knew planning a Village was this hard?" Madara groused as he angrily stuffed his face with monaka, and dropped crisp bits of mochi onto the table.

Tobirama quietly refilled his plate, and added a daifuku.

"Your brother," Madara growled, "keeps trying to place eateries all over the map! How on earth are we supposed to keep them supplied, I asked, and he said he'd just put gardens right next to them!"

"Mm," Tobirama said. "That does make watering them difficult."

"I know! The river bisects the village but it's not like the very edges will have water so easily!"

"Fortunately there are excellent hydraulic plans set out in the maps of the old capital from fifty years ago," Tobirama murmured.

Madara paused, and then started flinging scrolls to go hunting for said maps.

"Hydraulics - city -planning - would they have sewage - hah!" Madara pulled up three heavy scrolls, and then shoved the rest of his papers aside to to spread them out on the floor. Tobirama handed him several rocks to serve as paperweights. "Excellent," Madara said. "I can use these to bludgeon that fool's head in, go write that down -"

Tobirama hummed as he refilled Madara's tea and returned to his sewing. He'd discovered he'd worn holes in the knees of his pants; but fortunately there were clean rags available that he could use to patch them.

Madara glanced up at Tobirama, and frowned at the sight of him holding needle and thread.

"... what are you doing?"

"Patching," Tobirama said.

"... I can see that. You're sewing. How -"

"It's less difficult than repairing armour." Tobirama said. "It's amazing; I only require needle and darning thread, and no other specialty tools."

Madara frowned. "Patching. Why-" he sat back on his heels and really looked at Tobirama; his gaze was intent enough Tobirama was surprised he hadn't turned on his sharingan.

"Are you… in need?"

Tobirama blinked. "No? Why?"

Madara frowned harder, but Tobirama returned to his sewing. There. Patching done for one knee.

Madara frowned at him the entire night, even staring down at the pile of clothing he was repairing when Tobirama went to request an extra serving on Madara's behalf.

He supposed he should learn how to cook better, if Madara was going to stay for dinner more often. Unlike Tobirama, Madara was still an active shinobi, after all.

 


 

The months flowed by, tranquil as the surface of the Naka, but in the turn of the season, it was almost autumn, with its humidity and shortening days, and the festival of the dead.

Obon was a quiet affair for the Senju and their close allies, people returning to their natal families if they could.

In the Uchiha, Tobirama watched preparations for the festival lanterns, and was told of the Dance.

The Dance to celebrate the deeds of the dead, and to showcase their devotion.

Tobirama considered the quiet days that had preceded, and the future long peace that would go on after.

It seemed fitting.

 


 

There was no reason he couldn't use suiton for the dance - but it seemed a little disrespectful not to incorporate fire, somehow, into it, because Izuna had been one of the fastest, strongest, and best katon users Tobirama had ever encountered. His own katon, while adequate, would never represent Izuna sufficiently.

So Tobirama learned how to dance with weighted fire on the end of a long chain, and controlling water with just one hand.

Water in sufficiently variant densities, at different shearing speeds and directions, scattered light like diamond, refracting light into brilliant colours to represent every shining deed of Izuna's life.

As the widow of the currently highest ranked dead, Tobirama was the head of the Dance, and he would not perform poorly.

 


 

There was no reason for Tobirama (not Senju, hadn't been, for a long time) to look like… like what he did.

But he'd stepped out in the front of the procession, and then shaped water in his hands, like a ball, in the dying evening sun, which while decent looking, was hardly appropriate for the Uchiha, nor the time -

Then suddenly the sphere of water glowed.

Lit up from inside, and suddenly shards of scintillating light scattered across the field, and Tobirama, clad in white, was abruptly dappled with bright colour, the only thing Madara could see.

And Tobirama started to dance.

 


 

Tobirama had never danced before, not like this, not in front of an audience, but it was two steps aside from kata, from a fight, and if the fire on the end of his chain represented Izuna, he could easily replicate their fights, the push, pull and step of it.

For the longest moments, it was almost like Izuna WAS here, present, shining bright in Tobirama's vision, because it was the only thing he could see, spinning in the quickening dark, a burning flame in everyone's mind.

 


 

Where had he learned to dance?! There had never been an Obon like this before, and if he hadn't had his sharingan activated, Madara would have sworn, could have sworn, it was Izuna there, facing off Tobirama, bright jitter of his flame against the glitter of TObirama's suiton, there and gone, Izuna stepping in time with Tobirama until the flame spun high, a spiral of colour that fractured against the night sky.

And exploded into fireworks, showering down in sparks over Tobirama, hands empty of everything but a simple chain - and Madara felt his heart clench.

Oh.

Oh.

 


 

Madara turning up at his door, after he'd finished with the offerings of the morning, was a surprise.

(Not that Tobirama hadn't sensed him coming, he just had not expected him to come to his door.)

"Madara-sama," Tobirama started.

"... There is actually a tradition of a living brother marrying his dead brother's widow if.... she has financial difficulties," Madara said, apropos of absolutely nothing.

Tobirama, very calmly, said, "I have no financial difficulties."

"You have no finances," Madara said.

"The Clan takes care of me," Tobirama said. "Therefore I have no financial difficulties at all."

"Pretend you do," Madara said, looking frustrated.

Tobirama tipped his head to the side for a moment. "Would you prefer to come inside instead?"

"I, as the Uchiha Clan Head," Madara said, and Tobirama realised he had rehearsed this. Possibly for hours. Possibly all night.

"You are my Clan head, yes," Tobirama agreed.

Madara stepped forward, towards Tobirama, and very calmly, with great restraint for Madara, slapped his hand over Tobirama's mouth.

"I, as the Uchiha Clan head," Madara repeated, "feel obliged to take you, Ghost-bride of my dead brother, as my own wife, because I am unmarried and you are in financial need."

Tobirama blinked at him, and waited for him to remove his hand.

"I accept your offer," he said.

"-Because you are literally sewing your own clothing, and planting things with your own damn hands - wait. You do?"

Tobirama nodded. "I've let you represent my ideas to Anija and the council of elders you've set up -" He ignored Madara's sputtering, but Madara should have realised by now what he had been doing, all these months, after all, "- so it is not that far a reach to let you represent me officially."

Madara squinted at him. "You what," he said.

"... going from ghost-bride to bride of the brain-dead isn't that much of an upgrade," Tobirama said.

"Izuna isn't - wasn't - brain dead!"

Tobirama exhaled in mild amusement.

"Wait, you meant me."

Tobirama felt a faint smile tug at his lips. "Perhaps you should come in out of the sun. It's cooking your head; I'll make you tea."

"You called me brain-dead!"

"When you tell Anija, however," Tobirama said, as he set his bowl of sweet pastries down, and set the water to boil, "I don't actually want to be present."

After all.

He was already Uchiha.

END